Tandem skydivers
Stuart Bak

Places to Visit Outside Bangkok

Even the most jaded traveler is unlikely to tire of Bangkok’s countless thrills and spills quickly, from thrilling Muay Thai bouts and otherworldly temples, to bustling night markets and the glorious sights, smells and sounds of Chinatown. But if you find yourself with a few extra days to spare, there are plenty of top-tier places to visit outside Bangkok, too. Our guide takes in a selection of the very finest. Best of all, each of our picks is possible as a day trip. So let’s go explore!


Temples at Ayutthaya near Bangkok

Stately Ayutthaya stood as the capital of old Siam for hundreds of years before being razed by the Burmese army in 1767 and shifted downriver to where modern Bangkok stands today. Unleash your inner Indiana Jones on a trip out to these ancient ruins, with their eye-popping Angkor Wat-style spires and headless Buddha statues. Many of the heads were lost to looters, alas, but do look out for the one that has been gloriously preserved by a tree that has grown up around it. It’s easy to get lost in this vast complex of temples and merchant’s houses and that’s part of the joy. Take a guided tour to get straight to the highlights, or rent a bicycle to meander around the paths at your own pace. Ayutthaya is around two hours from Bangkok by train and it’s worth considering turning your day trip into an overnighter to give you time to fully immerse in the atmosphere of this incredibly special place.

Amphawa Floating Market

Amphawa Floating Market in Thailand

There’s a century of trading history at Amphawa Floating Market, where merchants set up stalls along the riverside and hawk all manner of goodies – local handicrafts, boat noodles, mango sticky rice – from sampan boats on the water. Hop in a boat to make the most of this charming slice of old-school Thailand, and snap the Insta-perfect stilt houses along the banks before haggling your way to a souvenir or seven to take home with you. As night falls, hundreds of tiny fireflies flicker across the surface of the Maeklong river and sparkle beneath the trees, like something from a Disney movie. Magical.

Kaeng Krachan National Park

Camping at Kaeng Krachan national park in Thailand

Thailand’s largest national park lies just a couple of hours southwest of Bangkok and, boy, is it a biggie. This vast wilderness – think virgin rainforests, towering waterfalls, lofty mountains and wild plains – spans some 1,125 square miles. That’s about five times the size of Thailand’s biggest island (Phuket) and even a shade larger than Rhode Island. There are various ways to explore Kaeng Krachan, but perhaps the best is in an off-road vehicle with a local guide and driver who can get you to the most secluded, remote and spectacular spots. Heck, you can even spend a couple of days camping out here if that’s your thang. And why not? The dawn chorus is a joy to experience, with several hundred species of exotic bird calling Kaeng Krachan home and, you never know, you might even encounter a leopard, lemur or wild elephant along the way.

Erawan Falls

Erawan Falls in Thailand

With their inviting emerald pools and lush jungle greenery, the seven tiers of Erawan Falls are another of Thailand’s great natural wonders, and lie within easy reach of Bangkok. Again, tours are available, but you may get more from Erawan if you book some of the cheap accommodation here and rise early – morning before the tourist hordes arrive is by far the best time to take a dip, as well as bagging those coveted ‘alone at the waterfall’ snaps. The falls are great to hike, too. You can get up to the elephant-head-shaped seventh tier and back down in about an hour and of course there’s all that lovely cool water to cool you down afterwards.


Parasailing at Pattaya Beach

The powdery white sands, swoonsome swaying palms and gin-clear waters of Pattaya Beach may feel a million miles from the metropolitan hum and thrum of the city. But in fact it’s only about a hundred, meaning this little slice of paradise can be reached in a couple of hours from central Bangkok. A cornucopia of treats awaits the intrepid traveler, from fine scuba and snorkeling opportunities to tandem skydives over the mountains. Slip into those balmy turquoise waters to say hey to the local residents, among them hawksbill turtles and blue spot stingray, or join the mile-high club (no, not that one), by leaping Bond-style from a moving plane with the likes of Thai Sky Adventures or Skydive Pattaya. Alternatively, you can take in those sweeping coastal vistas from a relatively low-octane hot-air balloon ride. Or parasailing. But it isn’t all action, action, action here. It’s more than acceptable to spend an entire day horizontal on the golden sand, moving only to accept another refreshing Mai Tai as the warm waters lap at your toes.

Maeklong Railway Market

Train rolling through Maeklong Railway Market in Thailand

If there’s one thing Thailand does exceptionally well it’s memorable markets. Case in point: Maeklong Railway Market. Nicknamed ‘Talat Rom Hup’ (roughly ‘umbrella pull-down market’) for reasons that will soon become apparent, Maeklong is Thailand’s biggest seafood market, but you’ll also find spices, fresh fruit'n'veg, clothes, electronic gadgets and all manner of other knick-knacks here. That’s not why tourists have made this one of the most popular places to visit outside Bangkok though. No: the main draw here is the aforementioned umbrella activity. You see, Maeklong is set along 100 meters of live railway line, meaning that traders are required to rapidly roll back their awnings (and wares) around eight times a day, making way for the trains to rumble straight through the market. It's really quite the spectacle.

Khao Yai

The famous Heo Suwat waterfall in Khao Yai national park, Thailand

Thailand’s first designated national park is located around three hours northeast of Bangkok, making a day trip just about manageable if you roll out of bed early enough. This UNESCO-recognized gem has multiple attractions for the outdoor enthusiast. We’re talking everything from gentle strolls through rainforests that teem with native wildlife to calf-punishing three-day hikes to the summit of Khao Rom. But most people come to this 836-square-mile monster for one thing and one thing only: the stunning Heo Suwat waterfall, best known for its role in The Beach. Expect paradise found, but with crowds.

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